With chutzpah and no capital, Galloway made Digger a success

Anne Galloway – photo credit VT Digger

By Guy Page

Publishing a daily newspaper is a grind. 

Weeklies are different. For every day of intense deadline pressure, there’s at least one day of “I think I’ll spend the morning in the garden.” 

Not so, the daily. “Yesterday’s newspaper is today’s fish wrapper,” Burlington Free Press ace reporter Alan Abbey told me when I was an intern reporter there in 1979. 

Yesterday’s labors are irrelevant. What matters is getting a great paper out today. And tomorrow. And the day after that….. Ask not for whom the buck stops – it stops with thee. 

News item from May 23 VTDigger: “Anne Galloway founded VTDigger in 2009 after she was laid off from her position as Sunday editor of the Rutland Herald and Times Argus. Under her leadership, VTDigger has grown from a $16,000-a-year nonprofit with no employees to a $2.8 million nonprofit daily news operation with a staff of 32. On Monday, Galloway announced she was stepping down as executive director of VTDigger’s parent organization, the Vermont Journalism Trust, to serve as founder and editor-at-large.”

I had left the declining world of newspapers for the better-compensated and far less demanded life of non-profit communications director when I ran into Anne in the Cedar Creek Room of the Vermont State House. The energetic news entrepreneur described her vision for a media platform that would be, to quote the as yet uncoined slogan of the Chester Telegraph, “All News, No Paper.”

“And no chance,” I thought to myself. Others had tried. Where would the money come from? 

Turns out Anne had cracked that tough, heretofore-impervious nut. She oversaw the creation of the Vermont Journalism Trust, a well-heeled, well-regarded gaggle of Vermont movers and shakers committed to not-for-profit news. Grant requests went out. Letters of approval came back, with checks attached. 

At first it was just Anne writing the news “with chutzpah and no capital,” she wrote in Monday’s edition. Soon, other bylines appeared. New VTDigger reporters lobbed questions at the governor’s press conferences. 

In those early days, as a very third-hand observer of VTDigger, I admired Galloway’s seemingly unerring instinct of hiring terrific talent. She recruited one strong reporter after another.

Her hire of IT guru Stacey Peters led to a strong digital daily newsletter, robust reader recruitment, fundraising, and less and less “friction,” the IT term for making readers work harder than they should have to to access the news and other offerings. IT directors are the online media equivalent of the newspaper’s printing press foreman – you never see them, but without them, you’d never see the news. James Kirk had Scotty, Anne Galloway has Stacey Peters.

Even seen from the outside, clearly Galloway’s tenure wasn’t perfect. Some of her picks for editor rubbed reporters and readers the wrong way. And if the website was relatively friction-free, the same perhaps was not always true of her leadership style, according to comments made when the staff unionized in April, 2020. Growth is always difficult. As a general rule, not all great entrepreneurs achieve lasting success as managers.  

In recent years, Vermont Daily Chronicle readers have faulted VTDigger for 1) news coverage and commentaries turning left and 2) cutting the hugely-popular comments section. The first is subjective, the latter explained as a cost-saving measure and by Galloway herself as a response to supposedly racist comments in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing. VTDigger also was criticized for donating free advertising to a pro-legal abortion group this February, the day before a big House vote on a constitutional amendment enshrining an unrestricted right to abortion. 

More recently, Galloway has decried the demise of the traditional newspaper, while also arguing before the Vermont Senate that municipal legal advertising – a staple revenue source for community newspapers – be made available to online news media.

But it’s easy to quibble. What’s hard is turning your dream into a nationally-recognized success story. That’s not hype. VTDigger was the toast of a national online news gathering I attended in Chicago in 2019.

Digger’s A.G. leadership team is in good hands with interim publisher Jim Welch – the benevolent, god-like managing editor of the Free Press in 1979 – and Editor Paul Heintz, a pro’s pro and a good guy, too. 

So enjoy the garden, Anne. Watch a Mountaineers game without having to worry about tomorrow’s paper. The buck no longer stops with you. 

Categories: Media

24 replies »

  1. Appreciate the effort to be positive. And yet…..

    “VTDigger was the toast of a national online news gathering I attended in Chicago in 2019.”

    Does this really say something good? Many, many would think…..NO.

  2. ‘No capital’… who are we kidding here? I was fooled into donating to VT Digger back in the early days, before I realized its liberal bias. And if you take the time to review the various IRS 990 tax returns for Digger, you will see a significant amount of funding from the usual suspects (The Johnson Family Foundation and the Lintilhac Foundation), donations made both directly and indirectly through various non-profit subsidiaries (e.g.’ The Vermont Community Foundation).

    Jim Welch, right out of the liberal model, is a senior editor at VTDigger and a former Montpelier bureau chief and executive editor at the Burlington Free Press. He also was deputy managing editor at USA Today for sports and then news, an editor at National Journal magazine and, most recently, a speechwriter for the president of the American Bar Association. He has a degree in government from Georgetown University and a master’s in leadership from its business school. He also is an adjunct lecturer in English at the University of Vermont and previously served as a professional in residence at the University of Iowa.

    Re: ‘The buck no longer stops with you.’

    Is it really so easy to walk away from biased reporting and commentary put forth by Digger over the years? What about the incessant vitriol from Digger’s exclusive cartoonist in chief?

    And this:

    VT Digger and Anne Galloway ought to know.

    • It makes me sick to see these people applaud themselves and give each other awards for censoring the news, selecting the narrative instead of reporting both sides and dumbing down the people. VtDigger should not be allowed to be a nonprofit 501C3. I was duped by them in the beginning also. Have a comment? Don’t go to digger, free speech does not exit there. They should advertise as, In search of the Narrative.

  3. My only quibble is selecting the description “god-like,” when referring to Jim Welch. If Jim can turn water into wine or part the waters of Lake Champlain, no man should be referred to as “god-like.” If he’s not a globist nincompoop and is pro-Constitutional rights and freedoms, etc. etc., perhaps “good man” would suffice.

      • Sorry Guy, that may be the case for some. But I was a 21-year-old journalist fresh out of the E. W. Scripts School of Journalism at Ohio University years ago during the Kent State fiasco and its aftermath. I learned very quickly that my editors were, for the most part, tyrants.

  4. And VTDigger will pull commentaries (even if written respectfully and fully referenced) if it doesn’t conform with their preferred narratives. Several writers have found that out the hard way.

  5. Tjank you. Despite our continuing difficulties with the way Digger functions, your vision of it’s rise from nowhere to being a successful enterprise with constituents/customers, has given me some perspective.

    • The logical fallacy: VT Digger didn’t rise from nowhere. Galloway was laid off from the Rutland Herald/Times Argus because readership and advertising revenue declined. At that time, apparently, there was no market for the liberal perspective. Galloway started her own rag under the auspices of fair and balanced reporting. And given the Danziger connection at the Rutland Herald, it was clearly a ploy to be sure. You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

  6. Originally a great watchdog but when it became a leftist only sound piece I was out .

  7. You’re a gentleman, Guy, and this was a fair salute to a successful competitor with whom I’m sure you are in frequent disagreement.

    • Since when, Bob, does fairness have anything to do with the false notion that Digger was ever ‘News in search of the Truth’? The ‘news’ is NOT a mutual admiration society. Your false logic rests in the implication that if we do not assert a so-called ‘fair salute’ to this competitor, we are not ‘gentlemen’. I will state here, for the record, I believe just the opposite to be the case. Sometimes ‘tough love’ is in order, and I think we need more of it, not less.

  8. Guy, it’s so simple to throw stones at a target of which so many of your readers have little, if any, understanding. Your comments about Anne and Digger are very objective and reasonable. Unfortunately, most of the critics who seem to have joyfully contributed to the offer you have provided them to bomb Digger are of a nature not unlike what the Russians have been doing daily now for the last three months in the Ukraine. Bombing the subject is relatively easy to do and benefits very few subscribers. They have very little, if any, understanding of the essence of how a daily news provider must, and usually does, operate, but moreover, they really don’t want to know. Objectivity in reporting is an unknown or unnecessary factor in the minds of the majority of the
    critics. All of those who love taking a shot at a local news provider want ONLY to read a point of view which they can easily and readily empathize. “If it’s not feeding me a report with which I
    can always agree, then it’s not worth my spending the time learning about it.”

    Well, OK. Nobody is trying to require them to learn what’s happening around the world, whether it’s in Vermont or in Timbuktu, but if they are so narrowminded that they wish to intake information only about that with which they fully agree, then they just shouldn’t bother to peruse a news provider which aims to inform and educate a wider spectrum of readers. It’s that easy!

    On the other hand, there will always be those who just can’t wait to throw a bomb on or at those who have a varying point of view. That’s not seeking news; it’s a hunger for a pat on the head for
    sharing only comfort.

    • OMG: It’s the Russians again.

      Explain, if you will, how legitimate criticism against VTD bias and censorship has anything to do with bombing Ukraine.

  9. A benevolent and well written tribute despite a likely significant philosophical chasm. Respect does not always require agreement.

    • “Respect does not always require agreement.”

      And who ever said it did?

      What is it about logical fallacies that we are missing here? It’s not just that I disagreed with Anne Galloway and her Digger cohorts from time to time. She misrepresented much of what I said to her and used a double standard to censor me when I held her accountable. Mere disagreement is no excuse for dishonesty. An honorable tribute must be honest, even when it is critical.

  10. Very honorable tribute Guy. May I dream that, perhaps, Anne Galloway has realized ,through the lens of a new vibrant online news daily, that the news and the readers are not monolithic ?

  11. Hitler did a great job organizing and reporting for the woos of Germany too. That worked out well for the Jews and others he targeted.

    People need to reread Liberal Fascism.
    This is all history repeating itself. Any newspaper that does not show both side of the story are in fact a follower of the Smith–Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 and is receiving funds from the government to push its propaganda. Keeping half the truth from we the people should be a crime and it used to be until the traitor Obama and his legislators changed the law to fix growing dissent for his commie policies. Pay attention to what our gubment does, most things are not good for us at all only a few rich donors.

  12. A REAL journalist does not impose their ideological biases on their writing, coverage or in this case on the entire organization. Spending time in her garden or on VTDigger…either way she is shoveling manure.

  13. I tried to make several comments on VTDigger back when it first started. Those who’ve read my comments here know my viewpoints are conservative, but every single comment I tried to make on VTDigger was censored (rejected). Typical lefty response.

    • You’re not along in being rejected by the VTD moderators…….I call it being put in the penalty box for allegedly making “gratuitously negative” comments. Here is an actual comment I attempted to make:

      “There’s goes Bob on auto – pilot again, attacking Republicans”………This was deemed to be a gratuitously negative attack on Bob Stannard according to Anne Galloway herself and not posted.

      Meanwhile Kevin Ellis, a member of the board of the Vermont Journalism Trust, the parent organization of VTDigger, has a blistering attack on former NFL coach Jon Gruden and the NFL published on the VTDigger……Read Ellis’ commentary on Gruden and see the VTD’s hypocrisy in defining and applying the “gratuitously negative” standard:

      And what makes this even more hypocritical is that the board members supposedly set operating standards for the VTD.

  14. Chiming in here. Digger is the media arm of the Vermont Woke Progressive Leviathan.

Leave a Reply